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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students petition guns

Published: October 5, 2007
Section: News

The decision by the Fire and Safety Arms Advisory Committee, approved by President Jehuda Reinharz, to recommend Brandeis police officers to carry guns has provoked a group of students who disagree with the decision to start a petition hoping to urge the Brandeis community re-evaluate the decision.

The goal of the petition according to organizers Ben Serby 10 and Philip LaCombe 10 is to engage all elements of the [Brandeis] community parents, students, professors to open up a greater discussion about the decision to arm the Brandeis police.

Id love to see a reversal [of the decision], but we may have a better shot to get the process reconvened, remarked Serby.

Serby was quick to point out that the petition is not an anti-gun measure or affiliated with any political party. The group is trying not to stray into fundamental disagreements about guns, he said. Serby and LaCombe are members of Democracy for America (DFA), which is sponsoring the petition along with Students for a Democratic Society, though the DFA is doing the majority of the work on the petition.

Members of the petition group have been tabling in Usdan as well as dorm storming and passing the petition around different classes, according to Serby.

The issue, in Serbys view, has been a a very divisive topic. Ive been shocked and sometimes disappointed by the level of discourse that sinks to a very dismal levelpeople want to stifle the debate. Its very disappointing.

The group hopes to deliver 1,000 student signatures to President Reinharz by Oct. 11, when the president holds his open office hours. The group hopes to also collect faculty and staff signatures as well.

Along with DFA and SDS, other activist groups are working through the Activist Resource Center to organize a forum that would get experts to talk about what the effects of having funs on campus would be, according to LaCombe.

Much of the Serby and LeCombes discontent stems from the timing of the decision. The fact that it was held over the summer showed that the administration wanted to keep [the committee] hush-hush. If it happened during the year it would have been closely analyzed by the students and faculty, said Serby.

Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, a members of the Firearms advisory committee, said, I think there was well rounded student representation [on the committee], referring to the two student undergraduate representatives Alex Braver 09 and Choon Woo Ha 08 and graduate student Taletha Derrington. He acknowledged that it was unfortunate that the Virginia Tech situation occurred at the end of the semester.

Union President Shreeya Sinha '09 commented via email, While there were student representatives on the committee to advise President Reinharz on whether the campus police should be armed or not, I believe the timing of this decision, while students were not on campus, is probably contributing to the concerns that have arisen since the decision was made. Sinha also gave her personal opinion against the evaluation. She said, I personally disagree with having guns on campus, but I respect and understand the University's decision to arm the campus police.

Callahan responded that there was a lot of second guessing with Virginia Tech, and armed police may have prevented further killings. Brandeis must be protective, prepared, and proactive, he said. In response to the students starting the petition, I respect any type of student view. However Callahan said, common to Brandeis, not everyone agrees with everything. Thats lifethere are probably as many opinions as there are people.

According to John Hose, Executive Assistant to the President, the Presidents office only received about a dozen total emails from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, which arrived in the few days after the decision was made public.

Hose, who supports the decision, commented about the type of criticism the Presidents office has received. He said, I would also say that individual comments I find hard to understand for example, one person said I hope no safety officer would draw their gun in case of an emergency. He added, The way in which some of the concerns are expressed ignore the reality that we live in, explained Hose. He said, if [the Virginia Tech police] acted quickly and located [the gunman] quickly since he was armed to the teeth, someone needed to be armed.

Callahan said that in the 29 years he has worked at Brandeis that, the world has changed. Theres a certain percentage of the unknown.